Highlights and tour details
Between the River Tanaro and the Cuneo plain, the last spurs of the Ligurian Alps are a system of gentle hills, a panoramic balcony over the circle of peaks crowned by Monviso. Cultivated mainly with fodder and cereals, the Monregalese hills are the ideal environment for peaceful country rides. In addition to the town of Mondovì, a visit to the chapel of Santa Croce is recommended, where we enter with the Churches with Open Doors app to admire a significant example of the Gothic art that the area of Mondovì is famous for. Once in Vicoforte, it is difficult to ignore the splendid late Baroque sanctuary, before plunging into the countryside itinerary.
Already on the descent from Mondovì Altopiano, where the station is located, the hill of Mondovì Piazza appears with its clock tower and Belvedere. We note this image because the profile of the upper town will keep us company later on. Let' s get ready for the ascent from the Breo district, where we make a brief stop at least to see the arcaded via Sant' Agostino, the heart of the medieval centre. We reach the acropolis of the town, the district of Piazza, which takes its name from the vast municipal area around which beautiful 15th and 16th-century buildings stand.
- We leave the centre and follow the central Via Vico in search of the chapel of Santa Croce, which we find among the last houses in the town. In the past it stood at the Vico gate. Its appearance is simple and unadorned, but beyond the portico, the narrative inside helps us to understand the complex allegories of the rare iconographic theme of the Living Cross.
At regular intervals along the Via delle Cappelle, various votive aedicules announce that the next visit will be to one of the most luxurious sacred buildings dear to the Savoy family. Meanwhile, the landscape has already become that of the countryside: a continuous succession of meadows and woods. Perched on a ridge, Vicoforte is one of the villages that, in federation with Asti, formed the free commune of Mondovì in the 12th century. Along the delightful Via San Rocco we descend to the Sanctuary of Vicoforte, which finally appears with its monumental elliptical dome. We leave our bikes for a visit inside and a stroll under the arcades of La Palazzata, for a refreshing break, since a climb up to the plateau and a good number of dirt roads await us.
The fuchsia petal, which is the marker of the Landandè route, guides us with continuous descents and ascents to the ridges, and then up to the gates of Briaglia, where, barely visible in a field, we come across the Casnea hypogeum, an underground corridor ending in a chamber and a well. Researchers debate whether this is a Neolithic site, but it is well known that a ray of sunlight penetrates the cavern during the winter solstice.
Before returning to Briaglia, the route climbs up the opposite ridge, where the church of San Teobaldo is an unmissable viewpoint over the alpine circle and, before reaching the church, we also find the first of two giant benches installed in the area. We leave our bikes to be children again on this original yellow-blue bench and contemplate the landscape. Another bench awaits us for a similar experience - with a view of Mondovì and its Belvedere - in Briaglia, where there is also the opportunity to stop for a bite to eat.
We take the long descent from the village back down to the valley to our starting point, through hamlets and beautiful residential areas.
Points of interest
Chapel of Santa Croce
Few of us would be able to read and understand the complex symbolism of the cycle of frescoes, attributed to an artist of the Monregalese school, Antonio Dragone da Monteregale, and dating from the mid-15th century. The narration activated through the app therefore helps, revealing that the theme is indeed rare and arcane, and concerns the Cross. What we see behind the altar is a "brachial" cross, whose arms end precisely in hands. One of them crowns the triumphant church, the other plunges a dagger into the head of a beautiful woman riding a headless goat, an allegorical representation of the synagogue, over which the church is victorious. In a niche, there is also an image of Saint Helena finding the Cross in Palestine, the apostles and the episodes that mark the death and resurrection of Christ, who is effectively portrayed as he places one foot on the edge of the tomb, ready to emerge from it.
Sanctuary of Vicoforte
Commissioned by Charles Emmanuel I of Savoy at the end of the 16th century, the majestic sanctuary was only completed in the mid-18th century, crowned by the largest elliptical dome in the world, the work of the Monregalese architect Francesco Gallo. At the centre of the light-filled space of the church stands the small Baroque Tempietto del Pilone, which frames the image of the Virgin Mary, a 15th-century work that is the object of devotion. The vault is entirely frescoed and the theme is the Glorification of the Virgin Mary, assumed into heaven.
The Chapel of Santa Croce in Mondovì and the Sanctuary of Vicoforte will open their doors thanks to the Chiese a Porte Aperte app. Chiese a porte aperte is a system of automated opening and narration of churches in Piedmont and Aosta Valley. Download the Chiese a porte aperte app. For info: www.cittaecattedrali.it.